Since kicking off his skating career at the tender age of 13 years old, Neen Williams has put his body through a lot. The first move he landed was a heelflip, a trick he has since become revered for, but only after hitting the ground more than a few times. Eventually, the falls started to take their toll and, over the course of a decade, some of his injuries required serious repair.
In order to stay in the game as long as possible, the pro skater moved down south to prioritized health and fitness. Uproxx chatted with Williams about his wellness journey at one of his stomping grounds, Onnit Gym in Austin, Texas. Check the convo below.
When did you first start taking working out seriously?
I had a couple serious injuries in skateboarding, including some tears to the point of needing to do full reconstructions. Because of those setbacks, I started having skateboarding taken away from me for long periods of time. Every time I would have to go back and rebuild my body. I was going to physical therapy for months after those surgeries.
Those workouts were incredibly important because they were building strength to keep my knees from buckling or even bending in the wrong direction, and doing further damage to my legs. The physical therapy for those injuries got me very interested in training, and how training could help me actually prevent those injuries from ever happening.
How did you start the process of learning?
I started small, but the more that I started to learn about it the more I focused on it. I think it is important to start small and to learn the fundamentals because it can be really easy to get ahead of yourself. But learning those basics is key to make sure you are going about it the right way. There are resources out there, from social media to the internet, and I even put a lot of information on my own site to help people the way that I was helped.
What are your goals when you go into the gym?
Being a skateboarder means being strong, agile and mobile, so that is how I train. I want to be honed like an athlete, so I need the power to be able to pull off the moves I want and I need to have my central nervous system sharp. That reaction speed is key, especially when you are trying to land tricks. That reaction can help you get there, and even more importantly, if you miss your board it will help keep you alive when it comes to recovering and making sure you hit the ground right.
I came to the realization that I have to take care of my body to continue to do the things that I love, for as long as possible. I also want to get faster on my board, and speed is where it all started for me. I am not trying to get big for the sake of getting big. I try to stay at “flight weight,” as I call it, which is between 145 and 165 pounds.
We have had some epic sessions here at Onnit Gym, when did you first start working out here?
I became aware of Onnit a few years back, and once I did I got connected on social media with Eric, who is on Instagram as @primal.swoledier. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and he was traveling through to host a certification class for kettlebell training. I was curious about it at the time, so he invited me to join.
Do you have a piece of equipment or a lesson from those Onnit sessions that you hold onto?
I have really enjoyed the kettlebell flows that I have learned from the crew here. I believe that the kettlebell is one of the most diverse-use pieces of equipment in the gym. It works cardio. It works strength. It can work every single muscle of your body. They are great to take on the road as well.
On the skating side, people say you have one of the best heelflips in the game. Is there anything that you do in the gym to make that better?
Funny story, the first trick that I ever landed was a heelflip. I couldn’t do kickflips for the life of me. So I decided to transition into heelflips instead. As far as training, for heelflips you definitely want to open up the hips, There are shin box warm-ups that are excellent to get that flexibility. And then it’s time to grind that practice. In the end, practice is always going to be your best friend when it comes to learning and then perfecting a trick.
Has your diet changed any since you have focused on health more?
The diet has been a huge learning process for me. Eating right is a huge part of making sure your body is operating correctly. I will save a lot of my carb intake around either my workouts or my skating sessions, and try to avoid eating carbs just whenever I want. I enjoy hitting a protein shake after a good workout, and having fresh fruit around is an amazing treat when you need one.
Do you do anything to recover after a hard session?
I make sure to stretch and to foam roll as much as possible, sometimes even three or four times a day. That is definitely how I will try to start every single morning workout. I will hop into an ice bath three times a week, just to help with recovery.
Do you have an accomplishment that has come from that work that you are really proud of?
I am extremely proud of the fact that through training I was able to come back from those two ACL reconstructions, and still be able to jump 14 stairs. That is a huge win for me. I am on top of my game as ever.